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Purge-fection: 3 Processes, Resources and Reasons for Downsizing or Decluttering

By Susanna Barton March 05, 2024 Lifestyle

Enjoying life’s second half is more about presence and experience and less about the stuff we’ve stockpiled along the way. With our Golden Years in sight, now is the perfect time to lighten our load, pare back and purge so we can focus on the things that matter. But how? Whether it’s your own decluttering project or the painful task of unloading a loved one’s prized horde, stuff-lessening can be manageable if you implement a few simple processes.

Getting Down to These 3 Decluttering Processes

Let’s dive into a few of them here:

Identify Your Clutter

Take account of the contents you’re storing in each drawer, closet, bin and storage unit. Do this at a manageable pace but get a sense of what you have.

Do the Sorting Game

Sort your items in each venue into piles, including ones for valuables, meaningful keepsakes, practical items that you use frequently, donatable items, salable items, objects in which loved ones have expressed an interest, photos/videos, and trash.

Create Action Plan

Then approach each pile with an action plan. For valuables you wish to keep, put them in a safe place and write a note on each as to why they are special. This will be a big help to loved ones down the road! Do the same for meaningful keepsakes and remember that you only need to keep a few of them – not all of them!

Put practical, daily-use items back in their rightful place. Put the donatable items into bags or boxes and take them directly to the donation center of any organization that will accept them.

Consider whether you will use an estate sale or auction company to market your salable pieces, or if you will stage your own virtual or in-person garage sale.

Give the pieces others want to them while you are living, and you can see how much they enjoy them! Send photos or videos to a company that will scan them to a drive or digitize the material yourself with a phone, camera or scanner.

Take your trash pile to the curb or call your community’s special collection number to have it hauled away.

The Resources You Will Need

You also will want to be familiar with the following kinds of organizations and resources:

  1. A “Got Junk?” or trash hauling company.
  2. The names and numbers of reputable estate sale and auction companies. Ask friends who have been there, done that.
  3. Organizations that accept donations. And be familiar with the kinds of items they will take, including mattresses, appliances and broken pieces if applicable. Learn which organizations will pick up donations from your house, and which ones require delivery of goods.

What Are Your Reasons for Decluttering?

But why do it, you might ask? Why go through all the trouble when it’s your stuff and it looks perfectly fine and squirreled away where it is? These thoughts may be on replay as you wade through stacks of children’s preschool artwork, sweaters you haven’t worn in years or your grandmother’s Hummel figurine collection. Why does it even matter anyway if my drawers are full, my closets are dense and my mini storage units are unbreachable? Let’s end with the three reasons why.

Mental Health Boost

First, decluttering is also good for our health. A University of Connecticut study indicates the following mental health benefits: better physical health and a boosted mood, a sharpened focus, energized productivity and relieved anxiety. “By removing or controlling clutter, we can directly reduce the stress that stems from the mess which can help us to feel happier, less anxious, and more confident in ourselves,” an article on the study detailed.

Keeping Clutter Is Expensive

Second, keeping copious amounts of useless stuff around is expensive. According to, the average storage unit costs $180 a month. The best storage companies’ rates, the website says, are between $70 and $300 monthly. That starts adding up over time, and rates often go up every six months or so. Warehousing things that have no value or practical use is a waste of money, plain and simple.

Leaving an Ordered Home Is a Gift

Third, and most importantly, maintaining a purged home is a gift to the loved ones who will be left to manage our possessions when we’re gone. If you think getting rid of your own collection is challenging, remember it will be 10 times harder and more excruciating for your children, grandchildren, or friends to undertake. In addition to missing and mourning you, they will be heartbroken over this task.

As you may have discovered in your own purging, decluttering and paring back is physically and mentally exhausting. You don’t want this for your loved ones. Not to mention the trauma they must endure to get the job done may very well mar or alter the carefully curated legacy you designed for yourself. Be remembered as a loving, organized person who put the future experience of others before their own stuff dependence. Time to get purging!

Let’s Have a Conversation:

Have you started downsizing or decluttering your home during your second half? What’s hard about it, and what’s freeing? What are some things you’ve learned about the process?

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Your comments about an orderly home being a gift could not be better said. I am currently clearing my deceased family members estate and belongings. Her once beautiful condo was in complete filth and squalor. Her whole lifetime of belongings was still there mixed up in the squalor. Along with grieving, I am so shocked. It is a lot to deal with mentally and physically. Once this is finished. I am going to address and purge my own life, I want to become a minimalist, long before dementia, ill health and old age set in. I would never wish to put anyone through this experience after I am gone.

Velma kitchens

I am going in baby steps since I retired last september. I am a keeper but am doing bettet

Lisa Stege

I’m doing this the hard way: I am moving for the second time in under 5 years. The first time, I retired a week before I moved, and had very little time to sort though my stuff. (By the way, have you ever seen George Carlin’s rant about “stuff”? it’s on YouTube. Now I’m going from a large home (4 brms and a 3 car garage full of stuff) to a 2 bedroom & den (no closet) and 2 car garage. The packing never ends! I’ve decided that instead of decluttering, I’m packing what I want, and then disposing of what’s left. Whew!

Last edited 1 month ago by Lisa Stege

Just became empty nesters and now the process of decluttering begins. So many things still around from our children’s school days! Starting with paper clutter and crafts. Both overwhelming and emotional as the memories of our little ones now grown and gone come flooding back

Marie Iddings

How about the boxes of elementary school stuff? I think I kept every paper my son had in Kindergarten. I did cull down from about 10 large boxes to 2 but I need to get ruthless. What to do with all those stuffed toys?

Deborah Powell

I know what that is like. I had to do that after my Mum passed. I was retired and widowed so I had the time. It was by times hilarious and had some laughs. I found every thank you card she ever received I think. I remember saying to a family member do you remember what Mum and Dad gave you for a wedding present forty years ago. I can tell you I read the thank you card you sent. lol
Since then I started removing one thing from every room in my house every day. If I don’t need or use it and the kids don’t want it then it goes in a box for goodwill. When the box is full I deliver it. A manageable system for me.


Sounds good, I should do that! Does sound manageable. I’ve adopted the thought process of acquiring something useful for now and letting go of twice that to donate or giveaway so at least I feel some progress…🙏🏽

The Author

Susanna Barton, a longtime writer in Jacksonville FL, is the founder of the Grand Plans online community, podcast, newsletter and blog. Her book Grand Plans: How to Mitigate Geri-Drama in 20 Easy Steps and its accompanying workbook, the Grand Planner, are available in local stores and on Amazon. For more information visit

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